Monday, 30 April 2018

Grownup Developers Conference?

We’ve had a busy month with travel to the US for events!

Rich and Sarah attended GDC for the first time, or atleast attempted to, and well, it was ok…

The event itself is huge, and there were a lot of friends and colleagues to catch up with, but to be honest, the fringe events were better than the core event itself based on this experience, specifically how non-inclusive it was for Sarah, a working mom, and core member of the Semaeopus team. But before we get to that…

The Positives

We got to show Off Grid at a couple of nice mixer events. That was where we got to interact with fellow devs most and have the most meaningful conversations, and for that, there is no other place like GDC.

We demoed Off Grid at the GDC Experience Mixer with the Bay Bridge as our backdrop.

As well as at the fantastic GameJolt and Portland Indie Games Squad party.

We met our new friend Sam Eng at the MIX who is making the very cool ZARVOT

As well as the very cool Petri Purho and team behind Noita.

And went to a great talk on low-budget publishing by Mike Rose:

The expo itself is a tad dingy, and there are loads of great games, but the home of the IGF pavillion really didn’t live up to what we had imagined it to be.  We’d hoped it would be entering an indie temple. The overall atmosphere got in the way of wanting to play much.  However,
that wasn’t the worst of it…

Now for the negative

GDC pretty much bans children & anyone related to one :0

The major issue we had was with the conference organisers flat ban on children.  A limited number of childcare spots are available for children, but infants under 6 months are not included in this, nor are they able to join their parents on the show floor.  As some if you will know, two members of our team Sarah and Rich, recently became parents (although we don’t post much about it online - the biggest announcement in the gamedev world along these lines was actually a candid camera moment in Dan Da Rocha’s GDC round up video!).

We double checked the policy with the conference organisers well in advance just to be certain, and unfortunately were given the ‘its an insurance issue’ line.

One of Rich’s first plane rides as a daddy dev!

As a few more of you will know, Rich’s partner Sarah works as part of the studio in the role of biz and community developer. This ban on children of all ages essentially amounted to Sarah not being able to attend the conference at all (she’s breastfeeding so there really isn’t much we could do for Rich swapping out and taking the baby while she scoped things, certainly not enough to justify buying a second pass).

We lumped this and took a ‘it sucks but thems the rulez’ approach, figuring there would still be
plenty of fringe happenings to take part in…

Women In Games were not helpful

Sarah couldn’t even get an answer as to whether she could attend the Women in Games event with a baby.

This tweet along with a facebook message and an email went unresponded to, along with another direct appeal:

It goes without saying that WIG provides a much needed voice, they do a great job advancing equality and diversity in games, and we have a lot of respect for them, but that is why them dropping the ball here is even more of a shame.

Now to be fair, the onus really is on the Official GDC to cater more to working mothers, but for a Women In Games group not to acknowledge a peer is pretty sad - atleast 4 attempts were made by Sarah to see if she could get involved.

Fellow #MamaNPapaDevs Hollie and Chris Figueroa and other friends were supportive, and we know there was a parents roundtable at GDC which we would have liked to attend if our meeting schedule had allowed (really hope this gets onto GDC’s Youtube at some point)!

And speaking of meetings, we rocked up to meetings as a party of three and had nothing but positive reception from those we met with.  We’re a small, family friendly indie team and our working life has to reflect that. Our most enjoyable meeting was the three of us (Rich, Sarah, and little one) with Indie Boost, and it was the most productive to boot!

The main things we’ll take away and work on moving forward are getting involved in the discussion in following years, and supporting other conferences with better policies (shout out to Siggraph!!).

To conclude, there really is no other place like GDC for developers to meet up with their peers and exchange ideas.  This is all the more reason that they need to work harder at being inclusive of families and working mothers - that demographic makes up 20% of our core team!

If you fancy helping raise awareness, please bump the tweets linked above and get involved in raising the profile of parents in gamedev as a thing that needs catering to.

More news coming soon on our much more positive experience of PAXEast, so stay tuned!!

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